'Provocative' North Korean missile launches fall flat
North Korea attempted unsuccessfully to launch two suspected powerful intermediate-range missiles yesterday, South Korean defence officials said, bringing the number of apparent failures in recent weeks to three.
The reported failures come ahead of a major North Korean ruling party meeting next week at which leader Kim Jong-Un is believed to want to place his stamp more forcefully on a government he inherited after his father's death in late 2011.
The launches were believed to be the second and third attempted tests of a Musudan, a new intermediate-range missile that could one day be capable of reaching far-off US military bases in Asia and the Pacific.
Yesterday morning, a projectile fired from a North Korean northeastern coastal town crashed a few seconds after liftoff, a South Korean Defence Ministry official said, requesting anonymity because of office rules. It wasn't immediately known whether it crashed on land or into the sea.
Then, in the evening, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the North fired another Musudan missile near Wonsan but that launch also presumably failed. There were no other details.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry called the launches a provocation and said it will try to increase international pressure on North Korea.
Japan's UN Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa condemned what he called a "series of grave and very clear violations of Security Council resolutions."
"This is a threat to Japan's national security," he said.
Yoshikawa said the UN Security Council is preparing a statement in response to the launches.
The launch attempts come amid North Korean anger over annual South Korean-US military drills that it calls a rehearsal for an invasion. The North has fired many missiles and artillery shells into the sea in recent months in an apparent protest against the drills, which end tomorrow.
Yesterday, it was reported that North Korea has constructed a scale replica of the Blue House, the official residence of the South Korean president, and is preparing to use it as a target in an artillery exercise.
Satellite images have identified the half-size copy of the Blue House at the Taewon-ri firing range, on the outskirts of Pyongyang, the 'Chosun Ilbo' newspaper reported.
Defence officials added that around 30 artillery pieces had been detected under camouflage screens less than 2km from the structure.
The destruction of the mock-up of the official residence of Park Geun-hye is likely to be filmed and may be used in North Korean propaganda films.